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The right tennis ball machine can be a great training partner for you, your kids or your students.
Whether your kids have been playing tennis for quite awhile or are just starting out, there’s a lot of value that can be added to your child’s game by investing in one of these machines.
There are plenty of options out there to consider, but there aren’t many resources that focus specifically on the best tennis ball machine for kids.
Why use a tennis ball machine with kids?
While tennis ball machines certainly can’t serve as a replacement for personal coaching or training, these machines serve as a great supplement for kids looking to improve upon what they’re learning at practice.
It’s likely that not many kids their age are able to be adequate practice partners and most parents can only invest in so many training sessions per week. Enter the tennis ball machine!
The most common use for a kids’ ball machine is to practice form and rallies.
Children can use machines with slower speeds to ensure they’re swinging correctly, keeping a consistent pace, and practicing various strokes learned during practice.
If your child is gearing up for his or her first few matches, one of these machines can help him or her to prepare by filing the role of opponent.
You can opt for either a ball machine that has a lower minimum speed to really hone basic form or increase the speed to imitate match-like conditions.
Be sure the machine offers a variety in movement (both vertical and horizontal or at least an option that provides one of the following with random movements) to obtain the best training experience.
If your child has started learning drills, you might also look for a machine that has a few drills pre-programmed into it. These can be great features that help your child improve upon a variety of skillsets.
Some might include trajectory drills, improving your hits so they hit closer to the baseline or simply improving upon your overall consistency.
If you’d like to learn more about what some of these drills might look like, check out this short video:
What to look for in the right kids tennis ball machine
Though tennis ball machines are great assets to have to improve your child’s skill sets, it’s important to note that a machine cannot replace a trainer.
It’s also important to note that every child learns differently and therefore a tennis ball machine might not always be the best investment; in some cases, simply investing in more lessons or training sessions might be more beneficial.
After all, these types of machines can’t give your child feedback to improve their swing or form.
However, for most children, adding a tennis ball machine to their training regimen can be just what they need.
When thinking about what ball machine might be best for your kid, here are some thoughts to consider.
Weight of machine (stability and mobility)
The weight of the machine indicates how stable and solid it will be on the court. Typically, you want to look for machines around 40 pounds.
Most machines have wheels on the bottom to make transporting them easier, but weight is still a consideration for mobility, too – especially if you or your child is the one who will be doing most of the toting!
Generally, rectangular-shaped machines are light enough and easy enough for one person to carry or move; they’re also the least awkward to maneuver generally.
Be sure to think about how often you’ll be transporting your machine and how often it will need to be stored.
If it’s too heavy to lift or too big for your storage space, you might find your child doesn’t use it as often as you’d like.
Power (Battery-operated or plug in)
When considering a kids’ tennis ball machine purchase, it’s important to consider where the machine will be placed most often.
Will outlets be available? Will your child play indoors or outdoors most of the time?
Most indoor courts have options for outlets, but outdoor courts can be less adaptable.
For courts where outlets aren’t available, consider a battery-operated machine.
These machines (for kids and beginners) can last about 2-4 hours, which still leaves plenty of time to train.
Ball capacity (number of balls machine can hold)
Most people tend think more is better here, but children usually don’t train for long periods of time. Even matches offer breaks.
Rather than opting for a ball machine that boats 300-ball capacity, invest in a machine with less and use this time to reload your machine.
As long as your launcher holds more than 50 balls, your child should be perfectly fine.
If your child does tend to play longer with less breaks, then you might want to purchase a machine that holds somewhere around 150 balls to be safe.
However, for most children, 50 balls would be more than enough.
Speed (How quickly balls are launched)
When purchasing any tennis ball machine, it’s important to think about the speed of the balls being launched. Minimum speeds start around 10-20 miles per hour.
A child would likely need no more than 60mph. Think about how you plan to use the machine and match the speed accordingly.
For example, if your child needs to practice form, slower might be better. But if your child is seeking to gain consistency or improve reflexes during rallies, faster might be more appropriate.
Keep skill level in mind as well, as a machine that goes too fast or too slow for your child will do more harm than good.
Settings / Features
Always check the settings when looking at machines. Some offer some pretty useful features like offering pre-programmed drills, remote control operation, etc.
If your child plans to practice alone using the tennis ball machine, a feature like the remote control option would definitely come in handy!
Whereas children who generally have a parent, coach or training partner around to supervise may not require the help of a remote control.
As mentioned above, think about how and what you’ll be using it for before thinking you need to have a certain feature.
While the idea might seem nice, how often will your child really use that particular feature?
Invest in the machine that suits your child’s needs, not one that’s overwhelming because of all of the options.
Spin rate (flat strokes vs. spin features)
All machines, to a certain degree, offer a bit of a topspin toss. However, there are some machines that offer more customization here.
If you simply want to improve your flat strokes, the standard option is more than likely just fine.
If you would like to improve upon a variety of strokes, I would suggest a machine that offers some degree of a spin option.
For kids, this feature might not be a huge consideration, but it’s worth mentioning. Some machines offer options to feed tennis balls in different directions.
Simpler machines offer simply horizontal movement, but there are others that offer both random horizontal and vertical movement.
This consideration is most important when determining how you’d like to practice for matches and less about perfecting form.
Generally, machines that offer more flexibility with movement also offer more variety when it comes to available pre-programmed drills.
The machine you’re likely searching for is to help supplement practice when your child’s trainer, teammates or friends are unavailable to train with him or her.
Because of this, you’ll want to avoid any handheld tennis ball machines.
Even if you had someone to help, these are the least stable of the machines and aren’t recommended for this usage.
They may be less expensive than the more solid machines, but won’t fill the need for what you’re looking for.
Best Tennis Ball Machine for Kids
If you’re looking for the best tennis ball machine for child use, there are a number of products that may work well for your kid. It’s important to always consult an industry professional to help you determine the most appropriate product and before introducing any new product with your child.
The following options may be a good place to start your search.
Spinshot Lite Tennis Training Machine Basic Model (Best Model for Junior Player)
This model is perfect for kids who are just starting out and getting a feel for tennis.
This model is lightweight (just under 30 pounds) so your young tennis player should be able to roll it around easily. It fits into most cars and trunks, as well.
It’s also a lite model, which means this machine has exactly what you need – no more and no less.
For younger kids, this machine is straightforward and easy to use; because it lacks numerous setting options that are usually included on the more advanced machines, it’s not confusing or overwhelming to operate.
This model only reaches up to 30 mph, which is why it’s great for young kids who are learning the ropes.
The slower speeds allow for children to take their time learning various swings, consistency over time and maybe even a few basic drills.
It’s also great for parents or trainers who are concerned about injuries during use because some machines reach pretty high speeds. 30 mph is more than enough to practice with while also keeping your beginner safe.
One of our favorite features is that this model offers a Smart Watch Remote option, so kids, parents or trainers with smart watches will be able to control the machine from a distance.
View at Amazon to learn more about how this product may work for your child.
It also offers several more basic features such as:
- Feed Interval Options
- Holds 40-50 Balls
- Adjustable Ball Height
- Speed Control Options
- Easy Control Knobs
- Horizontal Oscillation
- Power Options (Battery or Outlet)
Lobster Sports – Elite Liberty Tennis Ball Machine – Smaller Battery Operated – Lightweight – Full-Featured Tennis Ball Hopper – Random Oscillation – Battery Charger Included – Optional Accessories
If you’re looking for a more advanced model for your children, this model might just be for you.
It’s a favorite because of its:
- Weight (35 lbs)
- Ability to be stored easily
- Battery Operated (perfect for outdoor use) and lasts 2-4 hours
- Ability to Feed 150 Balls
- Speed Range (20-80 mph)
- Spin Features (Topspin & Backspin)
- Feed Interval (2-12 seconds)
- Movement (Random Horizontal)
- Optional Remote Control (for added fee)
If you’re looking for a machine that your child won’t outgrow, this is the perfect fit.
While it’s not recommended for children just starting out, it’s perfect for children who are entering the intermediate player skill level.
The speed range offers plenty of flexibility.
Whether you want to slow things down and practice form or speed things up to simulate a match, this machine has features for it all.
It’s fairly lightweight at 35 pounds, which makes it easy to transport and store for young ones while still providing enough stability to give the power it needs feed the balls at the appropriate speed.
It also offers a couple of options for spin features and machine movement, which is perfect for practicing rallies.
Feeding 150 balls at a time, you shouldn’t have to stop and start much at all.
This model even offers a remote control option for an additional fee for those looking for easier use.
The one con is that it seems to have a longer recharging time than other models (12-15 hours for a full battery) – so be sure to keep that in mind when you consider how frequently you plan to use it.
View at Amazon for more information on how this product could work for your child.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com @FamVeldman